Diners in Concord

Select Local Merchants

Retro memorabilia overlooks the aqua and crimson formica booths of Hubcaps Diner, where the friendly waitstaff hums along to hit tunes from the '50s and '60s as they serve up trays of Dryer’s old-fashioned milkshakes and classic diner eats. Chefs man the breakfast griddle all day long, churning out waffles and gravy-slathered biscuits alongside a plethora of omelet and scramble options made with a choice of eggs, egg whites, or Eggbeaters. The diner also specializes in hearty American comfort food, such as Evergood polish sausages, chicken-fried steak, and albacore-tuna melts, which can be washed down with a steaming slice of pie à la mode or a choice of beer or wine. Rounding out the diner feel, the shop mixes up soda-fountain favorites, fashioning Dryer’s premium ice cream into banana splits, sundaes layered in hot fudge, and foamy root-beer floats you can hide your date's keys in.

1548 Bonanza St
Walnut Creek,

There's nothing small about Lumpy's Diner Express. It's not just that its eight-page menu is stocked with a variety of burgers, hot dogs, and other diner favorites—it's that it features several "Big Appetite" challenges, including one that requires diners to devour a burger that weighs more than 4 pounds and is loaded with at least six different toppings.

Lest its diners think that Lumpy's only features heavy meals, it offers healthy choices such as low-fat bison patties, grilled chicken, and protein shots for the milkshakes. An array of theme nights—such as Car and Bike night Mondays—and Betsy Ross look-alike contests round out Lumpy's all-American vibe.

5891 Lone Tree Way

All it takes is a single bite for a diner at Raul's Striper Cafe to be transported to the country. Flaky biscuits drenched in gravy, fluffy pancakes, and overstuffed breakfast burritos help start mornings with a bang, while chicken fried steak makes lunch-goers full enough to cancel dinner. Brunch is also offered for those who can't decide between breakfast or lunch.

210 Main St
Rio Vista,

Claremont Diner's cozy atmosphere and generous portions of classic diner fare have earned it the loyal patronage of locals, and favorable nods from critics from the San Francisco Chronicle. As guests devour breakfasts of pancake stacks topped with powered sugar and fresh fruit, or lunches of freshly made chicken salad or the ever-popular salmon burger, an adorable miniature train set steams through the restaurant and a tiny model village. The space bursts at the seams with heartwarming Americana, with its bar counter lined with swivel stools, guests sipping root beer floats in the red vinyl booths.

6200 Claremont Ave

In 1947, owners Mel Weiss and Harold Dobbs assembled a staff of 14 carhops to serve passing motorists at the first Mel's Drive-In. For the next two decades, customers partial to automobile dining flocked to the chain’s 11 California locations, eager to wash down grass-fed half-pound burgers with thick milk shakes. As fast-food outlets outpaced the drive-in's once-speedy service, its popularity declined, and it was eventually scheduled for demolition. The building got a temporary reprieve, however, when filmmaker George Lucas decided to use the drive-in's original location on Lombard Street as the colorful backdrop for his film American Graffiti. As bulldozers destroyed the last remnants of the historic drive-in, American Graffiti opened in theaters.

A decade later, though, Mel's son Steven reopened Mel's Drive-In in an attempt to carry on his father's dream. Steven restored the drive-in's multiple locations to mirror their original motif by stocking each with midcentury must-haves such as illuminated marquees, jukeboxes, and Elvis-themed WiFi passwords. The drive-in’s menu, meanwhile, balances period-appropriate fare, such as hot dogs and burgers, with healthy options, such as the Haven’s Famous vegetarian sandwich, two slices of nine-grain bread topped with avocado, sprouts, and tomatoes.

3355 Geary Blvd
San Francisco,

St. Francis Fountain

Historic Soda Fountain | Monster Hashes | Egg Creams and Floats | Vegan Milk Shakes | Hangover Cures

Sample Menu

  • To eat: hamburger with spuds
  • To share: a pair of Upside Down Hog Cakes—pancakes made with bacon, cheddar, and onion
  • To drink: milk shake

Past Lives: St. Francis Fountain came by its lovely old neon signage authentically—it’s been a soda fountain since Greek immigrant James Christakes opened it in 1918. The family updated the dining room in 1948, but not much else changed until Peter Hood and Levon Kazarian took it over in 2002 after the original spot closed. (In the interim, Mission Local reported, regulars taped pleading notes on the windows asking that the fountain be preserved.) The new owners preserved St. Francis’s spirit while trading in the candy- and ice-cream-making areas for a full menu; the ice cream now comes from local institution Mitchell’s.

While You Wait: Browse the selection of vintage pop-culture ephemera filling what used to be the candy case, perhaps picking up a pack of Magnum, P.I. trading cards to entertain a fussy 55-year-old.

Inside Tips

  • Scan the menu closely if you’re vegetarian or vegan—tons of dishes have meatless or nondairy tweaks available.
  • Larger groups might have trouble finding space here, since seating options are limited. (Things were smaller in 1918.)

Vocab Lesson
Black Forest ham: a black-edged ham named for the part of Germany where it’s produced via a three-month process involving curing with garlic, coriander, pepper, and juniper berries before it’s smoked over fir branches.

Egg cream: a classic (egg-free) fountain drink made with soda water, chocolate syrup and a little cream or, more commonly, milk.

While You’re in the Neighborhood

  • Before: Ramble down Balmy Alley (parallel to Treat Avenue and Harrison Street between 24th and 25th Streets) and tour murals ranging from the 1980s to, potentially, a couple weeks ago.
  • After: Plot to make your own sourdough french toast with a sourdough-bread-baking class from Sour Flour at La Victoria Bakery (2937 24th Street).

2801 24th St
San Francisco,